Lionel Messi is set to become Argentina's all-time record appearances holder when his country take on Bolivia in the Copa America.

Messi is still chasing an elusive major honour in international colours, a fact somewhat at odds with his gloriously decorated career at Barcelona.

Nevertheless, as he prepares to represent La Albiceleste for the 148th time, the 34-year-old should also reflect upon a brilliant body of work, where he has typically set new standards – most notably standing as Argentina's all-time record goalscorer with 73.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at Messi's Argentina career in numbers as prepares to go past Javier Mascherano's appearance landmark.

 

CONMEBOL'S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

In the eternal argument between fans of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal superstar's international record is sometimes held up as a point of difference.

Ronaldo pulled level with Ali Daei's all-time record of 109 goals for his country during the reigning European champions' 2-2 draw with France at Euro 2020 last week.

But there are a collection of "gimme" opponents afforded to Ronaldo within the European qualifiers that Messi simply does not enjoy.

The arduous CONMEBOL World Cup qualification marathon means plenty of his Argentina caps have arrived against high-quality opposition.

The highest proportion of his caps have come in South American World Cup qualifiers, where he has featured 50 times. This is set against 30 Copa outings, 19 appearances at the World Cup and 47 caps in international friendlies.

 

HIGH FIVES, BRILLIANT TREBLES

Argentina's bitter rivals Brazil, Paraguay and their 2015 and 2016 Copa America final tormentors Chile have faced up to Messi more than any other nation.

He has played them all 11 times, scoring five goals versus each. Against Bolivia, he will be aiming to improve upon a record of three goals from nine outings, with La Paz's sapping altitude pleasingly not a factor for Messi on this occasion.

Three of those strikes versus Brazil came in one sparkling 4-3 friendly win at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium in 2012.

Overall, he has six international hat-tricks and none more telling than the sensational salvo to secure a 3-1 win away to Ecuador that virtually single-handedly dragged Argentina to Russia 2018.

 

NIGHTMARE START AND OTHER MILESTONES

Messi's extended run at the summit of world football was not so easy to predict when he marked his Argentina debut from the bench against Hungary in Budapest in 2005 with a red card almost immediately after coming on.

His first goal came against Croatia in Basel on cap number six, while the otherwise forgettable 2010 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany in Cape Town was Messi's 50th cap.

Cap 100 came against guest participants Jamaica in the 2015 Copa America, a campaign that ended in now familiar disappointment.

Whether it's 147 caps or 73 goals, it is the number one – that much desired maiden senior trophy with Argentina – that continues to drive Messi. Bolivia are the next team in his way.

Brazil head coach Tite insisted "perfection does not exist" after the Selecao's 10-game winning streak was snapped following a 1-1 draw with Ecuador at the Copa America.

Neymar was rested for Brazil's final Group B fixture as the defending champions played out a disappointing stalemate against Ecuador at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico on Sunday.

Eder Militao's first international goal gave Brazil – who made 10 changes to the starting line-up – a 37th-minute lead before Angel Mena secured a point for Ecuador eight minutes into the second half.

Tite had been looking to extend Brazil's winning streak in pursuit of the country's all-time record – 14 under legendary boss Mario Zagallo – but his team were forced to share the spoils in their final group fixture.

"Saying that you cannot err is not human, perfection does not exist, what we have to do is minimise the margin of error for a team," Tite said post-match.

"When we talk about defensive solidity and also when we talk about game generation, we have to find the balance point without being too defensive or offensive.

"During matches there are different ways to play, dominance is when you have the ball and you try to attack, control when you stand further back, you do not have the ball and the opponent does not generate danger.

"So to play these difficult games we have to find the balance between dominance and control."

It was the first time Brazil had scored at least one goal at the CONMEBOL showpiece tournament and did not win since the 2015 edition.

Brazil, meanwhile, are the only team to score more than one header at this year's Copa America – Militao's goal was the nation's third consecutive headed goal.

Tite's Brazil will face either 15-time Copa champions Uruguay or two-time winners Chile in the quarter-finals.

"I can't choose, they both have tradition, quality, individual technique and weight of the jerseys, great technicians, outstanding players," Tite replied when asked who he would prefer to face in the last eight.

"The three of us are the last Copa America champions and with Uruguay we are a historic South American classic, I can't choose."

Neymar, a mask hanging from his left ear, took a bite from a bar and gestured this way and that. This was a game the world's most expensive player was happy to sit out, his unique talents probably better saved for another occasion.

Such as that which awaits Brazil on Friday, back at the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, when Uruguay or Chile will be the opposition for Tite's team.

This Sunday showdown with Ecuador was one for La Tri to savour and the Selecao to get out of the way, perhaps learn a thing or two but ideally come through unscathed and with a thing or two for the head coach to mull over before the knockout stage begins.

So Ecuador made the most of their opportunity to face Brazil at just about their most meek, the 1-1 draw sending Gustavo Alfaro's team through to the Copa America quarter-finals and a likely clash with Argentina next.

Whoever Ecuador do come up against next, they will be back here at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiania, where after holding the five-time World Cup winners to a deserved draw they had every reason to celebrate.

Ecuador are through to the Copa last eight for just the second time in the 21st century, and they were full value for their point as they finished above Venezuela and brought Brazil's 10-game winning streak – a record for Tite at the helm of the national team – to an end.

But what of Brazil? Tite made a raft of changes to ensure his hand will be as strong as possible for when the stiff competition begins, and it was hard to pick a promoted player who did his hopes of starting that quarter-final any good.

Certainly not Roberto Firmino, who started behind Gabriel Barbosa and played just 17 passes and had a mere 25 touches before being substituted midway through the second half. The Liverpool forward did not have a single goal attempt, and strikeforce spearhead Barbosa had only one, an early prod at a clever lobbed pass from Lucas Paqueta.

It fell to defender Eder Militao to show the Brazil attackers the route to goal, his neat header in the 37th minute opening the scoring.

Militao, Paqueta and Douglas Luiz danced away in a presumably rehearsed celebration, and you wondered if that was the kickstart this flat Brazil performance needed, the cue for a raising of their game.

'Vibra el continente' read the pitchside boards – 'Rock the continent'.

Brazil were rocking in a shy way here though, enjoying 71.1 per cent of first-half possession but not looking in the mood for a kill.

Angelo Preciado saw a thumping shot deflect just over the bar early in the second half as Ecuador chased an equaliser, and Enner Valencia also went close with a low strike before Angel Mena lashed past Alisson to level up in the 53rd minute.

Mena became the second substitute to score for Ecuador at this year's Copa, after Gonzalo Plata. Only Brazil (four) have benefited from more goals via a substitute this tournament.

A clever headed pass by Valencia set up the chance for the equaliser as Brazil's defence nodded off, and Ecuador went on to dominate the half, even swinging the possession dial around in their favour. They had 50.8 per cent of the ball in the second 45 minutes, five goals attempts to Brazil's two. Sebas Mendez was a titan in midfield, albeit against semi-interested opposition, winning possession a game-high 10 times and finding his man with 48 of his 50 passes over the 90 minutes.

 

Valencia was denied by a brave defensive header from Militao, who got to Preciado's dangerous cross just ahead of the former West Ham striker, and Ecuador then wanted a penalty when the ball struck Everton on the arm.

Mena almost scored a stunning second for Ecuador when his free-kick from close to the right touchline was whipped in with audacious curl and dip, forcing Alisson to tip over his crossbar.

Richarlison and Vinicius Junior came on as Tite looked to spark Brazil to life, but there was to be no ignition. It was the first time the reigning Copa America champions had scored at least one goal at the CONMEBOL showpiece and did not win since the 2015 edition.

Brazil are unbeaten against Ecuador in their last 11 games now, and this result probably matters very little, given the wins over Colombia, Peru and Venezuela that preceded it.

Moreover, the theory that you are only as good as your last game hardly applies when you rest the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva, Casemiro and Fred.

Yet Neymar, as he took another gnaw at his touchline snack, might have wondered when a Brazil team had ever looked so passive as this side did after the interval.

Brazil finished their Copa America Group B campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Ecuador on Sunday. 

With their place in the knockout stages already secured before the clash at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico, Tite opted to make 10 changes to the side that beat Colombia three days ago, with only captain Marquinhos keeping his place.

Eder Militao put the Selecao ahead shortly before half-time, but Ecuador improved after the break and deservedly sealed a point through Angel Mena.

Brazil will play the fourth-placed team in Group A in the quarter-finals on Friday, while Ecuador will play the winner of that group a day later. 

The much-changed Brazil starting XI struggled in the early stages, only testing Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez through Gabriel Barbosa inside the opening 20 minutes. 

Lucas Paqueta steered an effort wide from the edge of the penalty shortly after the midway point of the first half as Brazil started to exert more pressure on their opponents.

Their improvement was rewarded eight minutes before the interval when Militao headed home his first Brazil goal from Everton's free-kick. 

Ecuador drew level in the 53rd minute, though, substitute Mena firing past Alisson from 10 yards after latching onto Enner Valencia's headed pass. 

Substitute Vinicius Junior missed a glorious opportunity to restore Brazil's lead in the 66th minute, skewing wide at the back post from Paqueta's cross. 

The holders rarely looked like finding a winner in the closing stages as Brazil's run of 10 consecutive wins came to an end with a whimper.


What does it mean? Brazil's second string disappoints 

Victories over Peru, Colombia and Venezuela afforded Tite the opportunity to dip into his squad for this final group game and those fringe players did not exactly cover themselves in glory. 

It is unlikely many of those players will feature in the last-eight clash, with the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison refreshed and ready to reclaim their spots. 

Militao a rare bright spot

Militao was one of the few Brazil players who could hold his head high at full-time. In addition to opening his international account, the Real Madrid man made the most successful passes in the match (69), while no Brazil player made more clearances (five).

Firmino fails to shine

Roberto Firmino summed up Brazil's woes, the Liverpool striker failing to take a single shot during his 63 minutes on the pitch. A place back on the bench beckons for the 29-year-old for the quarter-finals.

What's next?

Brazil will know their opponents in the last eight after the final two games in Group A on Monday, while Ecuador are next in action against Paraguay in World Cup qualifying in September.

Venezuela crashed out of the Copa America after they were beaten 1-0 by Peru in a forgettable final group game in Brasilia.

Starting the evening placed fifth out of five teams in Group B, Venezuela needed to better Ecuador's result against defending champions Brazil as they took on opponents whose place in the knockout stages already looked safe.

However, Jose Peseiro's Venezuela were beaten by Andre Carrillo's second-half strike while their rivals for qualification held the tournament hosts to a draw to progress instead.

And that meant an early end to a disappointing campaign for Venezuela that returned just two points from four group-stages fixtures.

An understandably tense start to proceedings featured few chances, with two Jefferson Savarino efforts from distance providing the closest glimpse of goal for either side.

The second of those in fact created a gilt-edged opportunity for Sergio Cordova, but the Venezuela forward somehow conspired to head wide when presented with an open goal after a Pedro Gallese save.

Peru grew into the game from there, with Gianluca Lapadula and Sergio Pena bringing saves out of Wuilker Farinez before the break.

And La Blanquirroja picked up where they left off after the restart, with Carrillo reacting quickest when the ball dropped from a corner to smash the ball into the roof of the net.

That goal meant Venezuela were heading for the exit, and even worse news from Goiania followed, with Ecuador equalising against Brazil to strengthen their own chances of progressing.

With Venezuela's situation looking desperate, Peseiro looked to his bench for inspiration, but his side struggled to create chances of note as they were held at arm's length for the remainder by deserving winners Peru.

 

What does it mean? Peru good value

Although anything but progress to the knockout stages would have been considered disappointing, Peru have perhaps done better than they expected in beating Colombia to second place in the group.

Ricardo Gareca's side claimed two wins and a draw from their four games, with their only defeat coming against the hosts Brazil. They will hope to keep that form strong for going deep into the knockout stages.

Cueva leads the way

Three key passes, one shot, five tackles and eight possession regains sum up an all-action performance from Peru midfielder Christian Cueva.

Cordova misses out

How different things could have been for Venezuela had Cordova not made a hash of that simple header early on – one of just two shots he managed across 78 minutes on the field.

What's next?

Peru's win secured them second place in Group B behind Brazil, setting up a meeting with the side that finishes third in Group A after the final round of fixtures are completed on Monday.

Argentina can clinch top spot in Group A as they aim to maintain their unbeaten run under Lionel Scaloni against a Bolivia side already certain of an early Copa America exit.

The format of the 2021 tournament means just one team from each section misses out on the last eight, though the final matches are still pivotal as nations jostle for positions in the final standings.

Bolivia's exit was confirmed with a 2-0 reverse against Uruguay last time out, another blank in front of goal meaning Cesar Farias' side have managed to score just once in three outings so far.

Argentina have also found it tough going in attack, despite the presence of the talismanic Lionel Messi. Following a 1-1 draw with Chile in their opener, they have recorded back-to-back 1-0 triumphs over Uruguay and Paraguay.

Those results mean head coach Scaloni has not seen his team lose in his previous 16 games. His last defeat in the job came in the previous edition of the Copa America, as they were knocked out by rivals Brazil in the 2019 semi-finals.

A potential rematch appears unlikely until the final this time around, with Brazil winning Group B. Argentina know a victory in Cuiaba will be enough for them to do the same ahead of the quarter-finals.

Scaloni has a decision to make over whether to rest Messi, who has played every minute in the competition so far.

While the Barcelona superstar just recently turned 34, he may want to be involved from the start as he looks to win his 148th international cap, which would move him out of a tie with Javier Mascherano to sit alone at the top of the list for Argentina appearances.

Those in danger of receiving a suspension with another yellow card on Monday are likely to be left out, among them Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes and Giovanni Lo Celso.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Alejandro Gomez

'Papu' Gomez arrived late to international football but helped make up for lost time in his previous outing with his first goal in a competitive fixture for Argentina. He struck in the 10th minute against Paraguay, while he also completed 88.2 per cent of his attempted passes in the opposition half before being substituted. Did he do enough to keep his place, though?

Bolivia - Carlos Lampe

Goalkeeper Lampe has been a rare positive for his team at the Copa America, making the most saves per game (eight) among those to have played in two or more fixtures. Even with Argentina potentially resting players, Bolivia's last line of defence may well be busy again as they prepare to say farewell to this year's Copa.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the 10th meeting in the Copa America at a neutral venue, with Argentina never previously losing in such contests (W9 D1). However, Bolivia have won twice when serving as competition hosts, in 1963 and 1979.

- Scaloni is unbeaten in his last 16 managerial games in all competitions, his best run since taking charge of Argentina (W9 D7).

- After five unbeaten games in the Copa America with Venezuela, Cesar Farias has lost the last four; one for Venezuela (semi-final in 2011) and three for Bolivia (all this year).

- Argentina are the team with the most goals scored in the first 15 minutes of their games (two), with all of their goals scored in the first half of games (three, same as Ecuador).

Paraguay have not defeated Uruguay at the Copa America since 1947, but La Albirroja have momentum entering Monday's final group-stage game in Rio. 

While Uruguay have laboured to find their form in the tournament, Paraguay have taken six points from the first three Group A matches. 

They defeated Chile 2-0 on Thursday to confirm their place in the quarter-finals, three days after Uruguay needed an own goal by Arturo Vidal to salvage a 1-1 draw with La Roja. 

Coupled with a tournament-opening defeat of Bolivia, Paraguay will be feeling confident about their chances to earn a long-awaited victory.

Head coach Eduardo Berizzo said he expects the game to unfold along similar lines as the sides' scoreless draw in World Cup qualifying in Montevideo earlier this month. 

"Uruguay is tough, difficult, we faced each other recently in the qualifying rounds, it was very physical and tactical and surely the same awaits us," he said. "We will go out to win as we always do." 

La Celeste broke a five-game winless streak with a 2-0 defeat of Bolivia in their previous match, with Edinson Cavani breaking through for his first international goal since Uruguay's most recent victory against Colombia in November. 

With qualification for the knockout phase ensured, Uruguay will hope to gain their footing against a side they have dominated for decades. 

Uruguay are unbeaten in 15 Copa America games (W9 D6) against Paraguay dating to that long-forgotten La Albirroja triumph 74 years ago. 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Luis Suarez

Suarez is responsible for five of Uruguay's 12 shots on target in the tournament, a sign that he may be close to breaking his five-game international scoring drought. 

Beyond that stretch, the Atletico striker has not scored in the run of play for his country since a November 2019 friendly draw with Argentina. His four goals in World Cup qualifying last fall each came from the spot. 

Paraguay –​ Miguel Almiron

The Newcastle man had a hand in both goals against Chile, assisting on Braian Samudio's 33rd-minute opener and scoring from the spot in the second half. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- After their last win against Bolivia, Uruguay broke a run of three winless games in Copa America (D2 L1). They also scored two goals after scoring just once in each of the previous four (W1 D2 L1).
- After 11 winless games in Copa America (D6 L5), Paraguay won two of their last three games losing just against Argentina (1-0).
- Paraguay are the team with the higher shooting average in the current Copa America (17). The Albirroja also have the highest tally in a single game in the competition: 34 shots against Bolivia. 

Peru need only to avoid defeat to make sure of progression to the Copa America quarter-finals when they face Venezuela on Sunday.

Under Ricardo Gareca, Peru have done an excellent job of not losing games in the Copa America, aside when they have faced Brazil.

They lost 4-0 to Brazil in their second Group B encounter but Peru are unbeaten in their last 10 Copa games against all other opponents, a run that stretches back to 2015.

Gareca's men made it all the way to the final in 2019, losing 3-1 to Brazil, but before they can think about a similar run this year Peru must ensure they do not suffer a slip-up against the tournament minnows.

Venezuela are bottom of the group but draws against Colombia and Ecuador have kept them in the hunt for progression.

Those draws came despite Venezuela having only 35 per cent of possession in the Colombia game and 31.2 per cent of the ball versus Ecuador.

But a point will not be enough for Venezuela to reach the knockouts, only a win will do if they are to reach the last eight for the third successive tournament.

To claim victory, Venezuela will need to maintain the clinical form they displayed in the second half against Ecuador, in which they scored from their only two shots on target of the period.

A win for Peru will see them finish second in the group, though that could mean a quarter-final meeting with the only other team to beat them in the Copa under Gareca, Chile, who were 2-1 winners in the 2015 semi-finals.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru - Christian Cueva

If Peru are to secure progression in style then the creative burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Cueva, who created two chances in their 2-2 draw with Ecuador last time out. He has six chances created in the tournament, though only one assist.

Venezuela - Edson Castillo

Midfielder Castillo was instrumental in Venezuela's draw with Ecuador. He had three shots, with two on target, scored their first equaliser and then teed up substitute Ronald Hernandez for a 91st-minute leveller.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The last three meetings between Venezuela and Peru have ended level, two have finished 2-2 and they played out a goalless draw at the Copa America in 2019.

- Venezuela have just lost once in their last five Copa America games against sides not hosting the tournament, their only defeat came against Argentina in the 2019 quarter-finals.

- Venezuela are the team with the lowest average possession in the 2021 Copa America (35.1%). Three of the five games with the lowest possession were for Venezuela: v Ecuador (31.2%), v Colombia (35%) and v Brazil (38.3%).

- Peru have conceded the most goals in the group stage (7), with eliminated Bolivia second (6).

Brazil will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run over Ecuador to 11 games when they wrap up their Copa America Group B campaign on Sunday. 

Tite's men have started the tournament in fine form, beating Colombia, Peru and Venezuela to ensure their place in the last eight was secured long before the group's final game. 

They have scored nine goals in those three games and conceded just once. 

Given their place in the knockout stage is already secured, Tite could well shuffle his pack.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, in particular, will be hoping for a first start of the tournament after coming off the bench to score the equaliser against Colombia last time out, while Real Madrid man Vinicius Junior will be hoping to improve on his paltry five minutes of action so far. 

Ecuador, meanwhile, need a win to guarantee their place in the last eight, although they will progress regardless of the result if Venezuela lose to Peru on Sunday. 

They followed up their opening 1-0 defeat to Colombia with consecutive 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru. 

That has left them level with Venezuela on two points, though they have a superior goal difference to Jose Peseiro's side.

They have unsurprisingly struggled against Brazil historically, with their last win against the Selecao coming in the South American World Cup qualifiers in 2006.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Neymar

He did not get on the scoresheet against Colombia, but Neymar was heavily involved in the action. 

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar had five shots – a game high – and played two key passes, which was only bettered by Fred from either side. 

He did blot his copybook, however, by losing possession a whopping 40 times – 22 more times than any other player on the pitch, evidence that he was rather wasteful. Something for the 29-year-old to improve on against Ecuador.

Ecuador –​ Ayrton Preciado

Preciado scored his second goal of the campaign in the 2-2 draw with Peru last time out. 

The Santos Laguna winger was a real handful in that clash, taking more touches (90) and playing more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tite has won his last 10 games with Brazil in all competitions, his best run since he took over the job. 
- After winning four consecutive games in all competitions, Ecuador are winless in their last five (D2 L3), including two consecutive 2-2 draws against Colombia and Peru in the current Copa America.
- Brazil are the team with the most shots on target per game in the Copa America (6.7). They have also scored the most goals in the competition (nine in three games).
- Ecuador have put in the most crosses per game in the Copa America (29.3), with a 27.3 per cent success rate. They have the third best percentage of successful crosses in the competition after Paraguay and Colombia.

Paraguay booked their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals after comfortably accounting for a lacklustre Chile 2-0 on Thursday.

Goals from Braian Samudio and Miguel Almiron saw Paraguay upstage two-time champions Chile in their penultimate Group A fixture in Brasilia en route to the knockout round.

Samudio's maiden international goal gave Paraguay a 33rd-minute lead at Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, before Almiron converted a penalty 13 minutes into the second half.

Chile were aiming to maintain their unbeaten start under head coach Martin Lasarte having won three and drawn three of the six matches since his appointment, while trying to put some pressure on Group A leaders Argentina.

But Chile struggled from the outset, recording just one tame shot on target throughout against Paraguay, with Eduardo Vargas and Ben Brereton bystanders in a forgettable outing.

Paraguay looked the more likely to score and forward Samudio broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark – the 25-year-old rising highest to beat two defenders as his thumping header from Almiron's corner beat Claudio Bravo.

Carlos Gonzalez went close to doubling Paraguay's lead four minutes before half-time, however, his header in an unmarked situation went wide of the post in a big let-off for Bravo and Chile.

Paraguay did not have to wait long for their second goal after Chile veteran Gary Medel was penalised for a foul on Gonzalez in the 55th minute, with Newcastle United's Almiron stepping up to score the spot-kick.

Arturo Vidal led passionate appeals for a Chile penalty amid calls for a handball against Paraguay with 14 minutes remaining, but their protests fell on deaf ears, even after a VAR review.

That was the closest Chile came to scoring, with La Roja offering next to nothing in attack on a frustrating evening.

The gloss was taken off Paraguay's victory after substitute Antonio Bareiro left the field crying uncontrollably on a stretcher following what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

Edinson Cavani was on target as Uruguay booked their spot in the knockout stages of the Copa America with a 2-0 victory over Bolivia at Arena Pantanal.

After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign, and a first Group A win was enough to seal a place in the last eight. 

They largely struggled in the first half against Cesar Farias' side, yet went in at the break 1-0 up courtesy of an unlucky own goal by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe. 

La Celeste dominated the second period and scored a deserved second 11 minutes from time through Cavani, who had earlier missed a host of glorious chances.

Bolivia held their own in the opening stages, with Uruguay reduced to little more than half-chances inside the first 20 minutes.

Cavani had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the first half, but the Manchester United forward was thwarted by Lampe after struggling to get the ball out of his feet.

Uruguay went ahead five minutes before the interval in fortuitous circumstances, Luis Suarez's low cross diverted into his own net by Lampe after Jairo Quinteros' attempted clearance had crashed against him.

Cavani fired straight at Lampe shortly after the interval when it looked easier to score, while at the other end Fernando Muslera tipped over a powerful strike from Ramiro Vaca. 

Lampe twice denied Suarez before the hour mark – the first seeing him keep out the Atletico Madrid striker's audacious 40-yard half-volley – before the Bolivia keeper pawed over a fierce drive from Rodrigo Bentancur. 

Substitute Facundo Torres missed a glaring opportunity at the back post, but the 21-year-old made amends with a fine low cross which was clinically dispatched by Cavani from 12 yards to wrap up all three points.

Uruguay really should have scored a third deep into stoppage time, yet Maxi Gomez inexplicably skewered wide with the goal at his mercy.

Barcelona sent birthday greetings to Lionel Messi as the club captain turned 34 on Thursday – at a time when his future remains unresolved.

The man who holds a near clean sweep of individual club records has yet to sign a new contract, with his deal due to expire at the end of June.

There was customary warmth towards Messi in the social media posts by Barcelona, who showcased a reel of his 10 best goals, and now they must hope he has more birthdays to come while serving at Camp Nou.

Messi, whose career has been a one-club odyssey, is currently on Copa America duty in Brazil with the Argentina national team.

He is Barcelona's record goalscorer and has made more appearances for the club than any other player, also winning an unsurpassed six Ballon d'Or trophies while with the Catalan giants.

Messi sensationally sought to leave Barcelona last year, looking to exercise a clause in his contract that he believed allowed him to depart at the end of the season.

The club disputed his right to go and, faced with the prospect of a legal battle to try to free himself from his deal, Messi rowed back on that intention, committing to another term with the Blaugrana.

He finished as top scorer in LaLiga with 30 goals – seven more than any other player – and helped Barcelona win the Copa del Rey under new boss Ronald Koeman.

Those goals came at a rate of one every 100.77 minutes, with Messi surpassing his expected goals (xG) total of 23.79 comfortably.

However, Barcelona had started the season dreadfully and, despite picking up form in the new year, another dip came in the closing weeks of the campaign as a promising title challenge collapsed.

That allowed Atletico Madrid to capture the LaLiga trophy, with Real Madrid runners-up and Barcelona third.

The financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis has hit Barcelona hard and the contract offer tabled to Messi is reportedly not at the same level as his soon-to-expire deal.

The election of Joan Laporta as club president appears to have been taken as a positive step forward by Messi, who was scathing at times in his criticism of the previous regime, headed up by Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Barcelona have signed the likes of Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Messi's great friend Sergio Aguero to reinforce their side for next season.

Clearly, the club are building in the anticipation Messi will commit, rather than be tempted by the likes of past suitors Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

"He wants to stay," said Laporta recently, speaking at the presentation of a TV3 documentary about Messi.

"I do not contemplate a no. But it isn't easy. We'll do what we can."

A quick glance on Twitter and the trending topics in Colombia and Brazil would give you a rough idea of what transpired in Rio de Janeiro.

Pitana, Ospina, Colombia, Brazil and Copa America were among the trending names and words via social media after controversy marred the Selecao's 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

Reigning Copa America champions Brazil completed a stunning comeback in the 100th minute thanks to Casemiro's last-gasp header, but Colombia were still seething from an incident in the 78th minute.

Roberto Firmino's equaliser with 12 minutes of regulation time remaining came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from goalkeeper David Ospina and Colombia.

The goal stood, even after a VAR review.

But amid the Copa chaos, Brazil head coach Tite added to his growing legacy.

While Brazil had their run of six consecutive clean sheets ended, a streak dating back to October 2020, the Selecao extended their winning streak to 10 consecutive games.

Casemiro's goal – officially timed at 99:22, the latest recorded 90th-minute goal in a Copa fixture since Arturo Vidal scored for Chile against Bolivia in 2016 at 99:48, sealed top spot in Group B with one game remaining while preserving a 100 per cent record at this year's tournament on home soil.

It saw Tite surpass his own record with Brazil.

With wins over Colombia, Peru (twice), Venezuela (twice), Paraguay, Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia and South Korea, Tite exceeded his previous winning streak of nine straight games (in 2016) at the helm of the Selecao.

Tite was influential on the sidelines as Brazil bounced back from Luis Diaz's stunning and acrobatic 10th-minute opener.

He introduced Renan Lodi and Firmino – the pair were involved for Brazil's second-half equaliser against Colombia.

At the end of the encounter, Tite passed Sebastiao Lazaroni as the second coach with the most Copa America matches without defeats – eight to seven.

Legendary former coach Mario Zagallo – who won two World Cups as a player and one while in charge of Brazil, holds the record, having not tasted defeated in 12 appearances at the CONMEBOL tournament.

Since being appointed in 2016, Tite has overseen 43 wins, 10 draws and four defeats.

Controversy or not, the Tite train rolls on in pursuit of back-to-back Copa crowns.

Brazil head coach Tite slammed the "inadmissible" pitch at Estadio Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, despite Wednesday's controversial 2-1 Copa America win over Colombia.

Tite's Brazil were forced to come from behind for their 10th consecutive win, needing a last-gasp Casemiro header 10 minutes into stoppage time to secure a dramatic victory midweek.

Luis Diaz's stunning and acrobatic volley had given Colombia a 10th-minute lead and defending champions Brazil struggled to create any chances until the second half, with substitute Roberto Firmino equalising with 12 minutes of regulation remaining.

Colombia were left seething when Firmino's 78th-minute equaliser came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from Colombia.

Casemiro's 100th-minute goal – officially timed at 99:22, the latest recorded 90th-minute goal at the Copa America since 2016, then sealed top spot for in-form Brazil in Group B.

Brazil head coach Tite took aim at the playing surface, claiming it "spoiled the whole spectacle" and made it hard for his side to play.

"We have to understand the game within a context," Tite said at his news conference. "It was a field that I won't call horrible, but very bad for playing football, it spoils the whole spectacle.

"Whoever wants to create cannot. It is inadmissible for athletes from two high-level teams, who play in Europe with such a great quality of turf and a better, bigger spectacle, to come and play on a field under these conditions.

"The ball is torn. The fluency of the play is all impaired. If I take all the players from Brazil and ask them to comment on it, they will say almost the same thing I am saying.

"If we want a great show, we have to provide the conditions. It was very damaged. It's one of the aspects that I want to make clear."

Tite, whose Brazil had their run of six consecutive clean sheets ended, added: "This game is not the characteristic of the traditional Brazil against Colombia game. All the other games were competitive, but they had more play.

"We played pressured. And playing pressured is difficult, soon you want to get rhythm and you can't."

Tite was forthright on the playing surface, although he refused to be drawn on his side's controversial leveller, which occurred after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana, who opted to allow play to continue.

Colombia's players protested the decision with Pitana for several minutes, after a goal was awarded despite a VAR check.

"I regret what I'm going to say, but Pitana has to take care," Tite said. "He has to take care."

Defending champions Brazil secured top spot in Group B in dramatic fashion, claiming a last-gasp 2-1 win over Colombia as controversy marred the Copa America showdown.

Colombia were left seething when Brazil substitute Roberto Firmino's 78th-minute equaliser came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from Colombia.

Brazil compounded Colombia's frustrations after Casemiro struck in the 10th minute of stoppage time as the Selecao extended their winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday.

Colombia had been holding on to a 1-0 lead after Luis Diaz's spectacular 10th-minute volley, ending Brazil's six-game run without conceding a goal.

Reinaldo Rueda's Colombia took the lead in stunning fashion, when Juan Cuadrado whipped in a cross from the right flank, finding an unmarked Diaz – who fired home a sensational bicycle volley at the back post in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil, who went into the game having scored more goals (seven) and had more shots on target per game (eight) than any other team at this year's Copa America, struggled to create chances in the first 45 minutes.

Neymar had his first sniff on goal in the 55th minute from a direct ball he volleyed tamely on target, while he shot wide from outside the box shortly after.

In the 66th minute, half-time substitute Firmino produced a clever pass for Neymar to round goalkeeper David Ospina, only to hit the post off-balance from an angle.

Brazil found an equaliser with 12 minutes remaining, although it was controversial after the ball hit the referee in the lead-up, with play allowed to continue, rather than a drop-ball.

Tite's Selecao immediately pushed the ball wide to substitute Renan Lodi, whose cross was glanced in by Firmino, with Ospina unable to prevent it from creeping under him.

With virtually the last kick of the game, an unmarked Casemiro headed in Neymar's corner at the near post, sparking mass celebrations.

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